Friday, January 24, 2014

Second day at the conference- what I learned from Rachelle Smith!

Happy Friday y'all!

We had a SNOW DAY today (with very little actual snow!) and I only changed out of my pajamas to go to lunch!  We came home and I'm back in my pjs as we speak!

Yes, our poor cactus plants are now dead.  This has been a colder than normal winter in Austin, and these guys just couldn't handle it!  They really were big and green and beautiful once!  On the plus side, today has given me time to finish my post with more details on everything else I learned at the SDE First Grade Teacher Conference last week!  It really was a lot of fun!

If you missed my post about our blogger meet-up, be sure to click here to read it!  I also posted about the amazing Reagan Tunstall right here!  She gave an amazing presentation about math centers and she blogged about it on her fabulous blog.

On the second day of the conference, I attended 3 sessions given by the awesome Rachelle Smith from What the Teacher Wants!

Rachelle teaches first grade and had tons of great ideas to share with us!  Her first session was about Guided Reading.  She shared this awesome resource for organizing her kiddos into their Guided Reading groups.  I love how easy it is to move students from group to group as the year progresses.

She also has a great resource for ideas about what to do with students at each level and she shares it for free on her blog!  Click here to check out her post about Guided Reading and to grab that freebie.

She shared this adorable picture of her in first grade- look at that bow!  So cute!  :)

Her second session was about Behavior Management.  Rachelle talked about 3 important aspect for great management- Routine, Procedures and Expectations.  One routine she had was for her Fast Finishers.  You know, those kiddos who always finish everything right away and look to you for something else to do?  She uses picture clues on her white board for her Fast Finishers, so it saves her the heartache of saying over and over "Go read a book" or "Go do a puzzle".  The kids are trained to look at the fast finisher spot on the board when they are done and the picture is right there!  Some of the choices she uses are-
   read a book
   marker boards
   ABC games
   math games
   fast finisher folder
   file folder games

She posted about it on her blog here.  I really liked the idea of the fast finisher folder and I made some of my own pages for my students to use!  I'm going to laminate them and have them available for each student to write on with a dry erase marker.  Just click on the picture below if you'd like to download the pages for free!

I also loved an idea Rachelle suggested for organizing math materials.  She creates a math tub for each student that contains 10 cubes, number cards, beans, number line...anything math related that they might need to use during centers or math time.  She assembled a kit for each student inside a plastic tupperware container.  That way, each student has their own inside their desk and they're not having to get up and walk all over the classroom to get what they need.

This idea was easy for me to put into my classroom right away!  I didn't go out an buy 22 plastic containers just yet, but I did already have enough baskets to make a set for each table.  I put 4 number lines and 4 sets of cubes along with some dry erase markers and literacy resources that I want my kids to have easy access to.  It's great! 

One last management tool I loved was her great ideas for lining up.  Cleaning up from centers and transitioning to lunch or Specials can sometimes be a little hectic and those are two things that we do not want to be late to!!  :)

Rachelle showed us some adorable videos from her classroom of different types of "walks" she does with her class as they line up.  Sometimes they do a "syllable walk" and she calls out words as they walk/stomp our the syllables.  Other times they do a "soldier walk" and they count by tens.  We walked our spelling words yesterday and my kids loved it!  I just called out a spelling word and they walked the sounds in each word on the way to their spot in line.  Super fun and it keeps them engaged while they are transitioning.  She also uses some goodbye rhymes with them once they are already in line.  Here's a post about them on her blog and another from Cara over at The First Grade Parade.  You gotta make every minute count!

Before I get to her last session, here's a picture of me with Rachelle and Katie from Following My Heart to First Grade!  Both of them are super sweet 1st grade teachers!!  It was so fun to meet them in person!  Katie and her team came up from a town not to far from Austin and they were all such nice people!

Last up on my stalker tour of all 3 of Rachelle's sessions was Journal Writing!  She shared the way she does journal writing in her classroom and gave a lot of tips for creating stronger writers!

She uses journal writing for her "bell work" each day.  The students get started on their journal when they come in.  At this point in the year, the journals consists of writing paper with blank lines.  Each student has their own journal, but the size and number of lines is differentiated for each kiddo.  They are allowed to write about whatever they want.  When she introduces her journals at the beginning of the year, she gives her class a different sentence stem for the first 9 days.   The stems are usually get-to-know-you sentences, based on favorites, "My favorite movie is..." "My favorite drink is..." "I am afraid of...", things like that.  After that, she lets them write about their own topics, but has established lots of expectations for how journal time will work.  (write independently, sound out words, use writing tools, capitals, punctuation, finger spaces, etc)  There is a space for an illustration on each journal page, but that space gets smaller as they number of lines increase throughout the year.

Once they get the hang of the journal writing, she does daily conferences with them.  Her kiddos bring their journal over when they are done and they read her their post for the day.  She always starts off with a compliment about their work.  Then they quickly identify together any errors or things that could be better and the student goes back to fix them.  Once they are all done, they read it to her again and are able to do a fast finisher choice once they are finished.  She also does weekly conferences that are more in depth, but I definitely like the idea of a quick daily check in about everybody's writing!  Rachelle also makes time for 4 students to share their journal entry each day.

Our school is making a big push for writing practice/stamina this year, so I might start doing daily journal writing after Spring Break.  My kids write every day in our writing center, but I like the freedom of doing daily journals where they can pick their own topics.  Rachelle has her year-round journal in her TPT shop and it's next on my list to purchase!

I learned so much during the conference and am so glad that I went!  I've been teaching for 8 years now, but still love finding new ideas to put into place!!  If you ever have a chance to see Deanna, Reagan or Rachelle speak at a teacher conference, I highly recommend that you go!

Now I'm off to enjoy the rest of my 3 day weekend!  :)  Did you have a snow/ice day today?


  1. Replies
    1. You guys are the best! I really did learn so much! Thanks again for being awesome!

      Katie :)

  2. It was so much fun and I am glad that we got to be stalkers together! Ha! I started doing the journals each morning and I am really liking it so far!

    1. It was so much fun being stalkers- haha! Glad you're liking the journals- can't wait to start on those in my room, too!

      Katie :)

  3. Let me try that again...but from my personal account...
    I JUST LOVE THIS!!!! I had such a good time!!!! And you were SO sweet to come to my sessions. I am so glad you got some ideas and I feel so humbled. You rock, sister!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. I really did get some great ideas- you rock! So glad to have met you, even if Katie and I were stalkers for the day! :)

      Katie :)

  4. Thanks for this post. I will be attending the I teach First conference in Vegas and tou made my expectations go higher! :)

  5. Thanks for this post. I will be attending the I teach First conference in Vegas and tou made my expectations go higher! :)